Wishful Wednesday

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Every Wednesday I hope to reflect on my aspirations and hopes for the upcoming future. These “wishes” might be minor, such as housekeeping resolutions, or more expansive, flooding into the long term. I do envision some “bucket-list” type reminders to pop up on this list, including activities I have yet to do or places I have yet to see.

1. Decrease excess and embracing minimalism.

2. Find simple ways to exercise creativity.

3. Try new recipes (rather than making more plain pasta).

4. Clean the Keurig. Finally.

5. Get a table at Tryst and have a nice coffee-filled outing with friends.

6. Master the art of entertaining – on the cheap. Every bit older I get, the more I realize how expensive “being social” is for us young professionals. However, there’s nothing better than a simple, soiree hosted by a friend at her apartment.

Every Experience Counts: Fighting “FOMO”

So there’s this twenty-first century affliction called “FOMO,” and I’m quite sick of its reoccurring rash on my life.

FOMO is simply the “fear of missing out.” But missing out on what? That’s the problem – the “what” is everything.  The truth of the matter is you’re always going to miss out on something, whether it’s burrito night at the dining hall or a family wedding.

I write this in hopes of reminding myself that in every moment I feel that pesky FOMO creeping in on my emotions, I am not missing out on at least one thing – what I am doing at that particular moment.

be brave take risks

I’m both privileged and cursed to live in an age of social media and to have so many opportunities as a student at an amazing American university.  I say this because I realize I have too many options of how to spend my time.  Club meetings, dance rehearsals, intriguing lectures, dance performances at DPAC, concerts, meals with friends, and office hours with professors – you name it and I can do it in college.  It’s come to the point in which I feel constantly overwhelmed by all the things I can do and having to decide what I should do.  (Ahh the tyranny of choice)  Even worse, I hate having to decide which people to spend my time with, not because I want to avoid certain people but because I feel that if I don’t see certain people regularly or I miss out on big events, then our relationships will suffer.

I had a bad case of FOMO during the beginning of this last month’s fall break.  Cue a scroll through my Instagram news feed.  A group of some of the people I consider my best of friends headed off to a giant fall break trip with mutual friends.  I was never officially invited but the trip was mentioned to me in passing.  I knew if I pushed further I could have easily joined them, but I let insecurities prevent me from joining.  I used my already booked flight home for break as an excuse – it would be too much trouble to change my plans.  I said I had to see my Nana and spend time with her.  Granted, I really wanted to see her but I felt the need to provide an excuse that confirmed, “I already have plans so I’m not hurt that I wasn’t included originally.”

what ifs

So I missed out on that trip – on the stories, the bonding, the photographs, the adventures.  I’ll never be a part of those memories and it stinks, but I can’t let my aggravation keep me down.

What did I not miss out on? A lot.

I spent time with my Nana, and I’m so thrilled that I now live just five minutes away from her and can visit with her as often as I like when I’m home.  We went out to lunch at my favorite restaurant (The Twisted Fork) with my mom, got ice cream at Ted & Wally’s, we drank wine at her kitchen table, and talked about our new favorite TV show, Castle.

twisted fork

Cowboy Breakfast Burger @TTF

"Salted Seahorse" ice cream @ T&W

“Salted Seahorse” ice cream @ T&W

mom nana

Mama & Nana

My cousin’s baby son Carl was my best bud this summer when my Mom and I babysat him each week.  He turned 10 months old yesterday, and he finally started crawling when I was home for break – and let me tell you, he is fast!  If I had gone anywhere else but home for fall break I would have missed watching him learn how to maneuver his baby legs across the carpet in search for something to pull himself up to stand up.  In this case, I did not miss out on a wonderful event in Carl’s life.  It’s amazing to watch a baby grow and mature, and Carl is truly showing his own fantastic personality now.

Baby Carl on the move

Baby Carl on the move

My cousin Michelle, someone I pretended was my cool big sister when I was younger (okay I still do) got married on Saturday and I was lucky enough to spend some time with her before she got hitched.  Since I finally turned 21 this summer Michelle and I got to go to get a “grown-up” drink together for the first time.  Toni, my cousin-in-law and baby Carl’s mom, Michelle, and I took a girls’ night to The Brazen Head pub in Omaha.  It was wonderful to feel like one of the big kid cousins and get to catch up with my cousins who also lead busy lives.  If I hadn’t come home for fall break I wouldn’t have seen Michelle until the day before her wedding and I wouldn’t have enjoyed the quality time we had.  I’m thankful I didn’t “miss out” on girls’ night.

girls nite

Michelle, me, Toni

Hey! Look what happened, I chose to miss out on the cool fall break trip but I did not miss out on some great moments with family members I don’t get to see that often.

I think when FOMO starts to overwhelm you it’s important to consider how trivial that even you’re “missing out” on actually is.  In the grand scheme of things I have seven more months as a student at Notre Dame with my friends – one week is just a tiny part of that.

I even got to visit with my friend Meredith, a fantastic Missourian attending Creighton that I worked with at my internship this summer.  If I hadn’t gone home for fall break I might not have been able to see her until winter break, thanks to our college schedules.  Visiting with Meredith reminded me that just because you don’t get to spend time with a friend as often as you’d like it doesn’t mean your friendship is dying throughout that loss of contact. It’s true – you can go two months without really keeping in touch and when you do get together it’s like you’re picking up right where you left off.

true friendship

It had been two months since I’d been in Omaha and upon my return I fully realized how nice it is to live there.  When we sold our house in New Jersey in June 2011 I was terrified to move across the country.  Sure, I had tons of relatives in Omaha and knew it well, but it wasn’t home yet.  It was just a place I visited a few times each year.  I didn’t want to leave behind New Jersey and the East Coast – the life to which I had grown accustomed.  I didn’t want to miss out on Jersey life.

However, looking back I realize how much I missed out on with family in Omaha when I was living in New Jersey.  But now I’m glad I don’t have to.  I’m just a Nebraskan with a Jersey girl upbringing now.  I have my Nebraska license plate and driver’s license and I can’t believe I’m saying this but I definitely secretly rooted for the Huskers this season.  I’m no longer missing out on Saturday nights at Uncle Carl’s house, or family birthday parties, or family dinners with Nana and my parents, or even baby Carl’s latest shenanigans.  For all of these privileges, I am thankful.

Thinking about life in Omaha helped me to see that you’re never really missing out when you make a decision about how to spend your time. What you choose to do is an experience in which you get to participate.  You only “miss out” when you’re not present in the moment because you’re too caught up with what you could be doing when you should be enjoying what you are doing instead.

greener grass

Yes, it may be brutal to have to sit quietly at the dinner table when your friends rehash their memories from the trip they went on and you didn’t, but I experienced things they didn’t when I wasn’t with them.  I’m sure there will be another vacation with friends I can take in the future but baby Carl will never crawl for the first time again.

I just can’t get stuck on what I could have or should have done. All that matters is what I have done, what I can do, and the happiness my experiences bring me.

do more happy

I love the saying “Do more of what makes you happy.” When in doubt and stuck between choices I now believe acknowledging your mental state is of utmost importance.  Don’t go to the party everyone’s going to just because they’re going, but go to that free concert on campus in which your favorite band is performing.  Of course there are times to take the road less traveled by (Don’t worry, Robert Frost, I was listening), but don’t let what’s popular for others define what you should do.

You might not think so, but you do know yourself pretty well– you’re the only one who has to listen to your own thoughts and in particular you’re the only one who has to listen to the regrets swirl in your head.  Be kind to yourself. Choose what feels right, because even though happiness isn’t guaranteed it’s completely possible.

Finding the Joy

I’m at that point in my life in which I can better discern what is meant to be truly memorable – what is meant to reverberate within the walls of my mind. There are the kinds of moments that catch my memory like a bear trap. They suffocate my concentration in a straight jacket of negativity. But these attachments will only achieve permanence if I let them.

At age 21, I finally understand the agency I have over my own mind, and over my perception of self and life. Despite anxiety and hardship, insecurities and self-consciousness, I am the endpoint of my own happiness. It is a huge responsibility, but a blessing none the less. My life is what I make of it, not what others make of it. Finding joy in life is certainly not the easiest of our tasks as humans. I find that we are more often reminded of all the injustice and deep sadness permeating the world, than of the goodness in humanity.

However, I truly believe this negativity can only be overcome when we maintain a consciousness of joy. If we do not appreciate life as a wonderful sphere of possibility, too much good goes undone. Across the board, we need to realize that love, joy, and happiness can rejuvenate anywhere in which there is negativity, sadness, or depression.

I am reminded of the Prayer of St. Francis. I have a laminated copy of the prayer printed on red paper that my elementary school was given on September 12, 2001 the student body gathered hand-in-hand for prayer after the 9/11 attacks. st_francis_prayer_600X888Furthermore, a song we sang frequently in my high school choir, Extreme Faith, at Corpus Christi Church offers more enlightenment on this transformation from negativity to positivity.

“Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love,
Where there is injury, Your pardon Lord,
And where there’s doubt, true faith in You.
Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness – only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.
Oh Master, grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving to all men that we receive,
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.”
So my personal goal this year, and for the rest that follow, is to replace negativity with positivity and despair with joy and hope, especially when I need to do so within myself.
This past Saturday, I did something I later described “Freshman Katie” would never have dared to do. I ran the “Happiest 5K on the Planet” with a cohort of some of my best friends. Yes, I ran “The Color Run,” and thankfully I crossed the finish line, and surprisingly didn’t pass out. Now when I say I ran it I mean I ran it, I power walked it, I leaped through it, and even danced through it. I didn’t sign up for the event because I wanted a good work out or because I needed to cross of an item from my bucket list – I signed up to do something ridiculously amazing with my friends. I call it my new, “Do it for the moment that will be a happy, exhilarating memory” – and, boy, was it that!
Throughout “The Color Run,” you are splattered with powdered color – like a human Jackson Pollock painting. At each kilometer, race volunteers threw so much color at you that you found yourself running through a kaleidoscope cloud. For a few seconds it was hard to breathe with all the color whooshing down my windpipe, but for the most part it was a chaotic frenzy of joy. I was truly living in that moment, and that moment only. Talk about a stress reliever.
color run jump
I didn’t care that I was breathing at 65% normal capacity because of the color being thrown at me, I didn’t care that I had the worst running cramp of my life, and I didn’t care that I was obviously out of shape (well, I did care but I wasn’t torn up about it). All that mattered to me throughout the event was that I was doing something wild and crazy with my friends. We were sharing in the joy together. How often do you get to run and dance around for an extended period of time with your friends, without worry of homework, responsibilities, or even how you look? Not that often. I was lucky.
This Saturday I had another “click” moment in which I realized how lucky I am that life presents me with moments such as these and has brought me friends who share in this happiness. I may still have some color stuck to my skin and I may be a tad bit behind in my reading assignments, but it’s a small price to pay for a memory as vivid (literally) and joyous as this one.Overall I learned, these legs weren’t made for running, but I certainly do have the most amazing friends and life is pretty great right now.
color run hands
It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to recall the past and understand how you have changed. Being okay with these changes is a sign of maturity.

The most frequently piece of advice I’ve heard in my life has been, “Go with the flow, it will all be okay.” I used to hate this phrase. It always felt it was an avoidance of giving truly applicable advice. However, I now understand how smart and useful this advice is. On Saturday, I went with the flow. I didn’t worry about anything. I just ran, screamed, danced and enjoyed sharing this magical experience with my friends. If you go with the flow, if you truly live in the moment and not in your anxieties or regrets, you can find happiness for yourself. This is where self-agency comes into the matter.
go with the flow
Getting hung up on the negativity stops your life in a way that prevents you from attaining happiness. I believe happiness is found when you keep moving. When you keep moving you learn how to trek through the mud of life and by as a result you become stronger in mind, spirit, and body. The forest of life is uncharted and dimly lit, but if you keep exploring and venturing through it you’ll find it grants more rewards than it does harm. You might run into a few thorns on your journey, but their little claws aren’t strong enough to keep you bound, so don’t let them. So I’m going to keep adventuring through this forest of life, because above it all will always be the sun, and with that sunlight there is always the possibility of happiness.
I came across this quote recently and it’s one of the truest sentences I have ever read. “The struggle is part of the story.” This story is life, and it’s a roller coaster of emotion – uncertainties and euphoria. However, with ever low comes a high. So just “go with the flow,” because in the end it all balances out.
the-struggle-is-part-of-the-story-Whitney-English
On another note, my nephew Grayden turned 6 years old today. Since we don’t live in the same state at the moment, I wasn’t able to partake in the little gentleman’s birthday festivities. However, I got to Facetime with him this afternoon and he showed me some of his birthday presents. This is this kind of moment I like to fold up in my mind for safekeeping. This is a moment worth getting “stuck on” – a memory that brings all the smiles.
It’s amazing how quickly the years have started to pass. Grayden is already 6, his brother Gavin will be 3 in November, and his baby sister Scarlet just passed her 3 month birthday last week. Family is sweet. Life is sweet. Good things come when you let life move. Just be sure to move with it – don’t let it pass you by. Be present, be active, and enjoy every moment.
The advice I can safely give at my treacherous age of 21 is: identify those moments, those memories, in your life that brought you the greatest joy – the biggest smile – and preserve them forever.  Let them energize you every morning, and not only remind you of all the good that has happened to you, but also of all the good that can and will happen to you. Let it define your perspective as one of hope and positivity. We have to listen to our thoughts at all times, so we might as well think good ones. Remember the only person you can’t block out is yourself. So be kind to yourself and choose happiness when you have the chance.

Following My Headlights

In my “American Renaissance” English class this afternoon I had the privilege of discussing Henry David Thoreau and his essay, “Resistance to Civil Government,” with some of the brightest thinkers in my English major at Notre Dame.  In the midst of Thoreau’s argument for civil disobedience, we discovered a strong opposition to complacency.  This resistance to simply going through the motions of life is still ringing in my ears hours later.

It brought me back to my high school days of driving to school and blasting the radio.  Four years later, this song pops in my head.

“I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking/ What if I had given everything/ Instead of going through the motions?” – from The Motions by Matthew West.
I don’t want to just go through the motions of completing senior year, finding a post-grad job, and moving on with life.  I want to be active in every moment of this fantastic, whirlwind journey.  I want to be present in every moment.
Senior year is a big deal.  I’ll admit, it still hasn’t really hit me, and I’m currently blaming that on my 5’2″ stature which allows me to still pass as a high school sophomore.  It’s completion might signify the end of college – for me, the end of an amazing experience at the University of Notre Dame – but it certainly marks a beginning much bigger than I could have ever imagined.
I still haven’t sorted out post-grad plans yet, and for some people that might feel scary but I’m oddly calm.  I think it’s because I know I have so many options for the trajectory of my career and my life.  What I do in the year immediately following my graduation from Notre Dame in May is ultimately just a small chunk of my life.  It’s a starting point, not a determining point.
Every stop in life is a transition to the next.  I’m only a little frightened by post-grad because I’m more excited about all the possibilities it can offer me.  Will I teach? Will I write? Will I work in media? Will be a curator? Will I start my own business? Answer: I have absolutely no idea, but I know all options are possible and that’s what calms me.
Some of my Notre Dame classmates know exactly what they want to do next year – they have the whole job description memorized.  For them, that’s reassuring, for me that’s terrifying.  I still have a whole lot of months of college left to finish figuring myself out.  I’m not procrastinating, I’m just working on myself.
Not committing doesn’t mean I’m indecisive.  That’s a life lesson I’ve learned this semester – I need to stop labeling myself as “indecisive.” It’s an escapist term – an excuse which lets you be okay with not knowing yourself.  It’s not that I can’t decide what I want to do next year, it’s more that I’m notready to decide.  I need to be sure that what I choose to do post-grad is good for 20-something year old Katie, instead of for 40 year old Katie (gasp!).  It’s good to plan ahead, but remember your headlights can only guide you for so far.
Speaking of headlights, as a writer I’ve always loved this quote on writing by E. L. Doctorow:

“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I’d argue this is pretty applicable to life in general.  If we get too caught up in the future – in the unknown darkness of what is yet to be – we lose sight of what is well lit in front of us, in the present time.
Today is October 1st, 2013, the second anniversary of my Papa’s (Dr. Carl J. Troia, M.D.) death.  His passing remains the greatest tragedy I have ever experienced.  Papa loved Notre Dame.  He essentially forced my uncle to go here – I don’t know how he had to be coerced – so when I sent in my commitment letter in to Our Lady’s University, Papa was thrilled. He told me he knew I’d be great, that it would be a good fit for me.  He was right, he is right.  There’s something truly special about a loved one supporting you unconditionally – without specified expectations.  It’s in my Papa’s unwavering and eternal support that I find solace in my post-grad discernment.
On July 5, 2011, I left my grandparents’ house in Omaha, NE after a 1-month stay with my Nana and Papa.  Papa and I said our goodbyes and said we’d see each other in October, on my fall break.  I’ll always be waiting for one more hug.  But until then, I know Papa (my beloved guardian angel) will be helping me adjust my headlights so that I never lose sight of my personal worth and my abilities.
I love you Papa, we all miss you. Today, tomorrow, and forever.